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O-Zone: Surprise, surprise

JACKSONVILLE – Look-ahead Wednesday.

Or not. It's the bye week, so we'll relax our usual rules. Not that we take the rules all that seriously in normal weeks. It's whatever, I suppose.

Let's get to it …

David from Orlando, FL

KOAF. There was a play on Sunday when a play was falling apart and Trevor was trying to make a play. There was a receiver in his view that was covered well and he took the sack. When he didn't heave the ball in the direction of the receiver, I literally cheered. I believe that's what you call growth.

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence indeed has developed and grown through the first 10 games of his second NFL season. Though that growth as might be expected has featured ups and downs rather than a straight arrow up, he is markedly improved with significantly more solid/good games than he was as a rookie. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, has had five games this season with a passer rating of more than 100 – and he has had two consecutive such games. He has had the Jaguars in position to win multiple games in the fourth quarter this season in which the defense did not hold the lead. He also has had multiple opportunities to lead fourth-quarter comebacks that he didn't complete, and he has had far too many red-zone turnovers that have cost the Jaguars at critical moments. He has taken steps forward and steps back, but the former have outnumbered the latter. Bottom line: He has improved significantly from last season and there's nothing to indicate he won't continue improving significantly. If he does, he will be really good.

David from Maplewood, NJ

I will say I don't know how you spend significant money to re-sign Allen; he is just not impactful enough to me for a significant investment. Also, not yet, but pretty soon, we are going to have to start the conversation around Walker. I'm not sure he is still on the team honestly.

I expect these to be prominent O-Zone topics moving forward, though I don't know that there will be speedy resolution to either "issue." Outside linebacker Josh Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, indeed has not had the impact he and fans expected or wanted this season – but he remains one of the team's better players. He also remains a player who pressures quarterbacks consistently, though his sacks total frankly isn't ideal. Remember: Because the Jaguars exercised the fifth-year option on Allen, his contract runs through the 2023 season. That means the sides may wait a while on a long-term extension, with the team also having the option to place the franchise tag on Allen if they don't want – or can't agree to – a long-term extension. As for rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker, the "conversation" long since has started in many circles. But it's the same conversation in a sense that has been ongoing since the Jaguars selected him No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. He has yet to prove himself an impact pass rusher, but he is a very good player in many other ways. He has two sacks, an interception and Pro Football Focus has him in the top few rookie edge rushers in pressures. He must develop as a pass rusher if he is to continue playing edge for the long-term. It's not unusual or unexpected that he needs to do this, but he does need to do it moving forward.

Chamberlain from Chamberlain, Chamberlain

If a rookie is struggling because they are a rookie, is the solution to replace the rookie with another rookie?

It is if the other rookie is playing better and understanding the offense/defense better.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

Let's be careful quoting former presidents in regard to those of us who actually served in the military when talking about real valor and courage and not men who are simply striving for a bigger paycheck on a football field. I'm not saying being an NFL player is easy but it's not the same as serving one's country either.

Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" quote/speech is commonly quoted regarding sports and the media – and that has been the case for decades. It also really isn't a quote/speech about the military as much as one about those who strive compared to those who observe. I fully agree that media and athletes too often casually compare sports to more serious matters, particularly war. This wasn't that.

Andy from Halifax

How do you fix self-inflicted mistakes and missed opportunities? It seems like the Jags could win a lot more if they could fix these two things but with 53 players all capable of missing opportunities and inflicting mistakes. How do teams with a winning record do this?

By playing better and smarter.

Sal from Austin, TX

Travon Walker is a great effort player, and I'm glad he's a Jaguar. With the playoffs fading fast, could we start to see some pass rush moves attempted? In the NFL that bull rush he uses from the edge isn't going to get there. We know he can close fast. How about a dip-and-bend? Maybe a spin or a club move?

I don't expect the Jaguars' playoff hopes to affect Walker's approach. I think he has been trying as hard as possible to succeed this season and will continue to do. I expect Walker next offseason will reflect on his season, identify areas to improve and perhaps work with pass-rush specialists to improve technique and approach. I expect he will work with outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey in this area, too. It's difficult ay any NFL position to dramatically improve technique once the regular season begins because practice primarily during that time is about game-planning and preparation.

Al from Orange Park, FL

There's big controversy over the Andre Cisco hit. It looked to me like Cisco simply braced himself and JuJu led with his helmet. Is that what you saw. If so, is that a penalty? Should it be?

You're referencing a hit by Jaguars safety Andre Cisco on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster Sunday. Cisco's hit broke up the pass and initially drew a flag, but officials met following the play and ruled there was no penalty. I thought it was fine that there was no penalty because Cisco appeared to lead with his shoulder and Smith-Schuster appeared to perhaps lower his head into Cisco. But it was one of the closer, trickier calls I have seen along these lines and a different set of officials might have ruled it a penalty. The NFL is a fast game and it's hard to have clear, no-question calls on every play. Sometimes the officials – like the rest of us – are just doing the best they can.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Even with a week off you still suck.


Matthew from Townsville, Tropical, Australia

Hi O, have you ever seen a more completely boneheaded mistake from a highly paid veteran in a key position than Cam's charge into the endzone? Where the player had several seconds to realize that what they were doing was boneheaded, but kept doing it? It's not like Robinson has been playing fantastic this season either. I think it's time to give Walker Little a chance at left tackle. If Cam ends up a very expensive swing, that's not the worst result in the world.

Robinson's illegal-player-downfield penalty Sunday that negated a touchdown pass to tight end Evan Engram was costly and frustrating, though I don't know that would put it on the Rushmore of bonehead mistakes I've covered. It's not time to play Little over Robinson, who is the Jaguars' best option at the position and who will remain the stater.

Tony from Johns Creek, GA

O, though it wasn't the reason the Jags lost, but it's hard to beat a team that plays an entire game without committing one penalty. It's not impossible, yet, unlikely that an offensive line plays a perfect game.

I've received a few versions of this email. We'll probably move on from the topic after this. It's unusual for a team to not be penalized at least once in a game, but the Chiefs are annually among the least-penalized team and are fifth in fewest penalties this season. I noticed a couple of plays – at least one hold – that I thought at first glance could/have should have been called. It didn't feel egregious, although that's subjective.

Scott from Mid-Atlantic

I'm a bit surprised you posted my sulking rant, of course out of frustration. We all hit our breaking points, I guess. It's obvious that this Jags team is without a doubt progressing as a whole and held their own against one of the leagues perennial playoff teams. So, no matter what, DTWD

You emailed a column that posts and responds to emails. I had to laugh a bit when you mentioned your surprise.